Ways doctors can go green

You would think that pulmonologists, who see patients with asthma all day long, would be more conscious of the impact their office environments have on their patients.

by Dr. Martha M. Grout — 

Sarah has chemical sensitivties and must see a pulmonologist for her asthma. She has a hard time when she gets to the doctor’s office, however, because some of the staff wear cologne, and the building smells of toxic materials which make her wheeze.

You would think that pulmonologists, who see patients with asthma all day long, would be more conscious of the impact their office environments have on their patients. After all, the business of medicine is to heal patients, is it not?

Moving into a new medical office gives doctors a unique opportunity to take control of the environment. “Going green” is much easier to do today than it was 10 or 20 years ago. Paints without toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are now widely available. Insulation, in the form of a recycled cotton batting made from ground-up blue jeans, is manufactured without formaldehyde. There are suppliers of formaldehyde-free wallboard and particle-board cabinets.

Nontoxic adhesives are available for carpet installation. A new linoleum, made with natural resin, ground limestone and flax seed, gives the appearance of wood flooring without the danger of absorbing spills. Doors can be made of WheatBoard, a ground-up wood made with binders that do not contain the chemicals found in standard adhesives and resins.

For allergy testing rooms, there is a special flooring material that emits negative ions which can help neutralize allergens, germs and molds. The floor actually helps neutralize contaminants in the air, so the allergy tests will be accurate and patients will not react to the room as well as to the substances being tested.

It only makes sense for doctors and other health professionals to “practice what they preach.” It is possible to create an environment that does not significantly add to the body’s chemical burden. The cost may be a little more than standard construction, but not significantly, and the benefits to all of us — patients and employees — are priceless.

 

Martha Grout, M.D., M.D.(H), serves on the Arizona State Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners and formerly sat on the Arizona State Board of Acupuncture. Her office is in Scottsdale, Ariz. 480-240-2600, www.crossroadsclinic.net.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 1, February/March 2007.

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